LOS ANGELES — Striking actors have voted to expand their walkout to include the lucrative video game market; This step could put new pressure on Hollywood studios to make deals with artists who provide sound and visuals for games.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists announced the move late Monday, saying 98% of its members had voted to strike against video game companies if ongoing negotiations are not successful. The announcement comes ahead of other talks scheduled for Tuesday.
Acting in video games can include a variety of roles, from voice performances to motion capture work and stunts. Video game players went on strike in 2016 due to a work stoppage that lasted nearly a year.
Some of the same issues are at play in video game negotiations as in the broader actors’ strike that has shut down Hollywood for months, including over wages, safety precautions and protections for the use of artificial intelligence. Companies involved include gaming giants Activision, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Take 2 Productions, as well as the video game divisions of Disney and Warner Bros.
“It’s time for video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about agreeing to this contract,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement.
The threat of a video game strike comes as Hollywood writers are on the verge of returning to work after months on the picket line.
A new spirit of optimism buoyed actors, who struck Tuesday for the first time since writers reached a tentative agreement Sunday night.
“For a moment, I thought this was actually going to last until next year,” said actor Marissa Cuevas, who starred in “Kung Fu” and “The Big Bang Theory.” “Knowing that at least one of us got a good deal gives us great hope that we will get a good deal, too.”
Writers’ picketing has been suspended, but they are encouraged to march in solidarity with actors, and many lined up Tuesday, including “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, who is striking along with friend and “ER” actor Noah Wyle. throughout the strikes.
“If SAG had not gone away, we would never have had the leverage we have,” Weiner said. “They were brave enough to do this.”
Important steps remain for writers who are technically on strike and other workers waiting to return to production on new shows.
The next phase will come Tuesday, when the boards of directors of the two chapters of the Writers Guild of America are expected to vote on the tentative agreement union negotiators reached with Hollywood studios.
Approval from union boards will be followed by a vote from the writers themselves – which is likely – but the timing is uncertain.
“I think we’ll vote for it,” said Writers Guild member Kyra Jones. “I believe that the negotiating committee will not settle for a bad deal. There would be no point in going that far.”
The Motion Picture and Television Producers Guild, the guild that represents studios, streaming services and production companies in negotiations, was still finalizing contract language Monday.
This could delay the vote and prevented union leaders from sharing with writers details of the results that almost five months of strikes and hardships have brought them. Leaders have promised to hold a series of meetings later this week to share the terms of the deal on pay, show staff and artificial intelligence.
The guild leaders simply told them that the deal was “exceptional” and that every member would benefit. A successful yes vote from members will finally officially end the strike.
Among the striking unions, the studio alliance has so far opted to negotiate only with writers and has not yet made an offer to restart negotiations with SAG-AFTRA. This will probably change soon.
SAG-AFTRA leaders said they would closely review the writers’ agreement, which includes many of the same issues, but that it would not affect their requests.
Associated Press video reporters Leslie Ambriz and Krysta Fauria in Los Angeles contributed to this report.